These are unprecedented times in our state and in our nation, and I want to begin by giving my deepest thanks to everyone working in the healthcare industry, to supply chain workers, to everyone in the agriculture industry, and to incredible volunteers who are stepping up during extremely trying times.
Governor Issues “Stay at Home” Order
On Friday, Governor Pritzker announced a statewide “stay at home” order that started at 5 p.m. Saturday. The order extends until the end of the day on Tuesday, April 7. This is a temporary protective measure being taken by the Governor to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Under this order, many things won’t change. Grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals/health care facilities and pharmacies, and other essential businesses will remain open. Carry-out food service will remain available. The state’s highways will remain open and emergency services will continue to operate. However, the order does extend the statewide school closure though April 8. Click here to read the Governor’s Executive Order (essential businesses are outlined in section 12). To read an FAQ on the executive order, click here, and to read an FAQ on the coronavirus in general, click here.
Filing for Unemployment Due to COVID-19
I am hearing from constituents who are unsure how they should go about seeking unemployment benefits if they lose their income as a result of measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is the agency that handles unemployment issues, and they have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers about employment issues associated with COVID-19. Click here to read that FAQ. You can use this link to begin the process of filing for unemployment benefits.
U.S. SBA Approves Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved Illinois’ eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans. Use this link to learn more and apply for assistance.
ICC Halts Utility Disconnections and Late Payment Fees
Last week the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) formalized an order to stop utility disconnections and to suspend late payment fees during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This emergency order ensures that no one loses power, natural gas or running water because they can’t afford to pay their bills during these hard times.
Stores are Posting Special Shopping Hours for Seniors
Many stores are holding special shopping hours for senior citizens and other populations vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Illinois Retail Manufacturing Association has compiled a list, which will be updated frequently, to help you navigate options. Click here to view that list.
How Can Illinoisans Help Those in Need?
Many are asking what they can do to help. The State of Illinois has a web site that puts people in touch with volunteer opportunities. In addition to this site and adhering to social distancing guidelines, I would encourage healthy adults to consider these other ways they can provide assistance and help to lessen the impact COVID-19 will have in Illinois:
- Practice Normal Grocery Shopping Habits: The Governor has assured that grocery stores will remain open, so there is no need to hoard food or home supplies. The empty shelves at grocery stores are not due to a disruption in the supply chain. To the contrary, the supply chain remains robust and strong. People should stick to their normal shopping patterns and not overbuy.
- Call Friends and Neighbors to Check on Them: This is especially important with the elderly. Give them a call and see if they need anything. If you’re healthy, offer to go to the grocery store or pharmacy for them.
- Support Local Restaurants during the Mandatory Shut-Down: The temporary halt of on-site dining is hitting local small businesses hard. I would encourage you to patronize local restaurants that offer carry-out, curb-side and delivery options. By adjusting our habits just slightly, we can help restaurants (and their employees) stay afloat during this difficult time.
- Donate and/or Volunteer at a Food Pantry: There is an urgent need for donations to food pantries, and many food pantries also need additional volunteers to handle an influx of requests. A list of local food pantries can be found here. Please call first to make sure the pantry is open.
- If You’re Healthy, Consider Donating Blood: With the cancelation of organized events, including large blood drives, the Red Cross and local blood banks are facing a severe blood shortage. You can use this link to find a blood drive or donation center near you.
- Donate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs): As cases of coronavirus increase, hospitals and medical centers are facing shortages of N95 masks, surgical gowns, medical face shields, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, infrared thermometers and nitrile exam gloves. If you are in a position to donate any of these items, please send an email to PPE.firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone will be in touch to make arrangements for receipt of your donation.
Finally – if you have any questions, please let me know. If we do not have the answers – I will get you in touch with someone who does. During this time, it is my priority to be accessible and help in any way that I can.